Char­maine Mr­webi, dream­ing and writ­ing in Setswana

Vuk'uzenzele - - General - Su­laiman Philip

every­one should read, says Char­maine Mr­webi. The pub­lished author, li­brar­ian and founder of the Char­mza Lit­er­ary Club says: “Our peo­ple should of­ten visit our li­braries and be­come friends of books. Re­mem­ber, any per­son who reads books on a daily ba­sis, de­vel­ops bet­ter lis­ten­ing skills. Read­ing helps learn­ers and stu­dents to per­form bet­ter at school.”

Char­mza Lit­er­ary Club vis­its schools around Thaba ’Nchu, her home­town, where she shares her love of read­ing and its im­por­tance.

She wants to em­power com­mu­ni­ties to tell their sto­ries in their own lan­guage. “We also teach adults the nec­es­sary writ­ing steps on how to write their books, edit and pub­lish them in their lan­guage.”

Mr­webi uses her school vis­its to iden­tify young writ­ers to men­tor. “We con­duct po­etry read­ings once a month in dif­fer­ent schools where we en­cour­age pupils to read and write po­ems.”

Once they have been iden­ti­fied, Mr­webi will “do­nate books to th­ese writ­ers af­ter they have formed their book clubs, po­etry groups and read­ing clubs”.

On­go­ing work

Since 2015 this Bloem­fontein-based writer and pub­lisher has part­nered with the Man­gaung Cul­tural Fes­ti­val to present the Mokete Sto­ry­telling Pic­nic. Us­ing sto­ry­telling and pup­pet shows, Mr­webi and her crew en­ter­tain chil­dren in Setswana.

In ad­di­tion, ev­ery Tues­day Mr­webi and the Char­mza team host work­shops at the Per­form­ing Arts Cen­tre of the Free State for school chil­dren. “For one hour af­ter school we work with chil­dren. We teach chil­dren that per­form­ing arts are a tool to un­der­stand their world and their lives.”

Grow­ing up in Thaba ’Nchu, Mr­webi was a vo­ra­cious reader. She has of­ten spo­ken about how read­ing al­lowed her to travel the world with­out leav­ing her home. But she yearned to find books writ­ten in Setswana, her mother tongue, about her own ex­pe­ri­ences.

She be­lieves it’s im­por­tant to read, and write, your own lit­er­a­ture. Writ­ers, she says, think and dream in their mother tongue and some­thing is lost when it is trans­lated. Des­per­ate to share her cul­ture with the world, she has self-pub­lished four books in her mother tongue.

She is hope­ful that, like her, there is a young Setswana writer some­where who will be in­spired to tell his or her own story. And who in­spires Mr­web? Her grand­mother Ellen Kuzwayo, the award-win­ning author of

Char­maine Mr­webi and her crew use sto­ry­telling to in­stil a love of read­ing and writ­ing.

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